About two years ago I sat across the table from one of my college students when he says this, “I have to tell you something. I’m gay. I know I’m going to hell for feeling this way, but I’ve known since I was in 6th grade. I know I’m choosing hell over heaven, but I don’t know what ales to do.” I had three reactions… my first reaction was laughter. I laughed because it was the last thing I expected…. I laughed because I was prepared for him to tell me that he got someone pregnant. I laughed because I walked with him for the past 10 years and only now he had the courage to tell me this. I laughed because it all made sense now. His attitude throughout Jr. High and High School… his attachments… his friendships… it all flashed before my eyes and it made sense. My laughing made the situation a little less difficult and took some of the pressure off of him.
My second reaction was anger. I was not angry at the fact that he was gay, I was angry that he thought that this was a salvation issue. I was angry that he thought that God hated him… and that this was the thing that was going to determine his salvation. I‘ve been his pastor for 10 years and he did not get that from me… so I quickly stopped him and said, “Wait! You’ve been under my teaching for 10 years and this is what you picked up? I have never ever taught you this… “It wasn’t my teaching that caused him to reach this conclusion, but it was the culture and context. So, I took the time to explain the Gospel to him one more time… to share God’s love and God’s desire for him. I wanted him to remember that salvation is not work/ act based, but salvation is the result of God’s grace and mercy shown on the cross. When I was done, he asked me if I was sure. He said, “Are you sure God still loves me?” I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself that question… or has that thought ever crossed my mind. I continued to say that though I don’t understand his feelings…. And I can’t pretend to understand same sex attraction, I know that I love him and I will stand with him (even if I don’t understand or fully agree). He is welcome in our community… he is part of our family… and I will stand with him, even if it costs me my job (which it might, I’m in the PCA).
My third reaction was the internal conflict that comes with this coming out experience. I remain convinced that the issue of homosexuality is not a salvation issue, but it’s a discipleship issue. It’s about the depth and the intimacy that you can have with God while living a lifestyle that is different than what God intended for you (I cringe inside when I say this). Gosh, I think about all the ways I fall short and all the decisions that I make that seem to be contrary to the “lifestyle” that God had intended for me to live.
I struggle with just how much our sexuality defines us. It’s almost like our self worth is determined by who our sexual partner is, and how many sexual partners we have had. There has to be more to my worth and my personhood than whom I sleep with. I don’t want my sexuality to be the first impression people have of me.
What I really appreciate about Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation, is the fact that it elevates all of our humanity, not just the gay community.
Martin seems to understand one thing well, that God looks at the heart and He changes the heart… we focus on changed behavior, but that’s secondary to someone’s encounter with God. It takes a lifetime to change behavior. We as a church need to give up trying to fix people, and changing hearts, but rather get in the business of showing God’s love. This doesn’t mean softening our position or theology, but it does mean being patient in understanding that God changes people… and that takes time.
I can’t help but think about Jesus’ reaction to the prostitute. He accepted her. He didn’t agree with her “lifestyle choice” but he reached out to her… and stood up for her, not once her behavior changed, but in the midst of it. Yes, he told her to sin no more, but He tells us the same thing over and over again… sin no more! Do I still sin? Maybe! 🙂
Finally, I end with a few questions…
- Is my sexual identity of more value than my identity in Christ?
- Is the act of having sex the highest form of intimacy… and is it the highest form of expressing love?